gaveldecision.jpgThe San Francisco Public Defender’s Office reported this week that nearly half of its trials last year ended with either complete acquittals or hung juries.

The city agency, which represents those who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys, handles about 25,000 clients each year.

“People often think that if someone is charged with a crime, there must be overwhelming evidence,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement Wednesday.

“In fact, juries did not find enough to convict in nearly half the jury trials.”

According to the public defender’s office, of its 168 trials in 2010, 36 percent resulted in not-guilty verdicts, and in 12 percent, juries were unable to reach a unanimous decision.

The numbers represent a three-year rise in what the public defender’s office called its “win” percentage: 38.5 percent in 2008, 46.5 percent in 2009 and 48 percent in 2010.

Of the 48 percent, 106 were misdemeanor cases and 62 were felonies, the public defender’s office said.

In the 10 murder cases that went to trial this year in which suspects were represented by public defenders, four resulted in complete acquittals, two in partial acquittals, one in dismissal and three in conviction, according to the public defender’s office.

The acquittals included Kenoye Stroman, an Oakland man found not guilty by a San Francisco Superior Court jury of the Sept. 16, 2007 fatal shooting of a San Francisco man outside Jillian’s nightclub; and Joc Wilson, one of three San Francisco men charged in two 2007 gang killings in the Sunnydale neighborhood.

The dismissal in the case of Joevon Boewon, an Oakland man accused in the 2003 fatal shooting of a San Francisco man in the Tenderloin neighborhood, is now being retried.

Another 22 percent of the public defender’s office’s clients received partial convictions and partial acquittals in 2010, and 30 percent were convicted.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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